March 21, 1974: Tragic fire at the Crossroads Inn

On this day in Duluth in 1974, a fire in Duluth’s Crossroads Inn Hotel at the northeast corner of Superior Street and Lake Avenue killed four and injured several others. Jarry Keppers, author of Fire & Ice:  A History of the Duluth Fire Department, recounted the blaze: “The fire, which was reported at 5:30 p.m., originated in the ground floor room…and swept like lightning through the three-floor structure’s remaining rooms, all of which were walled with wood paneling…. Smoke and people were coming out of windows, from second and third floor levels. One man was seen hanging from an upper third floor window by his hands and then dropped to the Lake Avenue sidewalk where an attempt was made to catch him by firefighters and three bystanders…. Witnesses observed the futile rescue attempt of Mr. George Park, 39, of Burnsville, MN, when he either leaped or fell from a third floor window. A firefighter climbing a rescue ladder grabbed at him as he tumbled down and managed to catch his leg but was unable to hold on. His body then fell onto the sidewalk next to three firefighters. Two days later, he died from resulting head injuries. This fire claimed four lives and injured several others. The victims of the fire were Olaf Johnson, 88, Mrs. Roger Stoneburner, 27, and Mr. George Park, 39, of Burnsville, MN, all hotel patrons. Several others were injured, including Duluth firefighters Richard Knutson and Henry Nick, who were treated at hospitals and released. According to reports, ‘several life, safety, and building code requirements were not updated.’”

The Crossroads Inn photographed by Clarence F. Sager after the March 21, 1974 fire. (Image: Dale Johnson)